The bottom line of relationships comes down to ensuring that your partner knows that they matter to you. At the beginning of a relationship, this is almost automatic as the newness and heightened joy exist and you want to keep that going. You initiate spending time together, talking, holding hands or cuddling, buying gifts, telling them how wonderful they are, and doing things for them. The problem is that when the newness and excitement – which is not humanly sustainable – wear off, we stop doing; we stop being intentional about focusing on them. The question is, “how did that happen?”
Being intentional in the beginning was effortless. Why? It is because we are on a relationship “high” and we want to keep it going. Conversely, we subconsciously know that we are bringing joy to our partner which actually brings us joy. The key is to start to be intentional again towards our partner. Get to know them by spending time together. Do things that you both enjoy. Spend time being curious about their likes and dislikes, which needs to include the why behind the like or dislike. Buy them gifts, compliment them regularly, and do things for them that will bring them joy. This is a choice. Research shows that if you do positive behaviors and think about your partner’s positive qualities, you will increase your positive view of them and increase your fondness for them.
Often, the response to the above is, “I do all of that, but they do not acknowledge my efforts.” After a few more questions, I usually find that what is being done is not something that matters to their partner. This is what I mean about being intentional and putting forth effort. You have to get to know your partner and learn about what makes them feel like they matter. One way to learn that is to be observant about what they do for you. Do they build you up a lot, do they always want to spend time with you, do they buy you gifts frequently, do they want to hold hands or cuddle, or do they keep doing things for you? Typically, how one expresses their love for their partner is one of the areas for which they would like more.
It is not easy to focus on your partner and to take the time and put forth the effort to let them know how much they matter. Regarding the list above, the goal is to spend some level of effort in all of those areas. However, to make it a little easier, focus on the one your partner does most for you. That is probably the one they want from you. When this process is flowing smoothly, the level of effort becomes easier, especially as you get to know your partner more.
Charles Bower, LPC Associate
My passion is relationships of all kinds. I have been working with people dealing with relationship issues, both professionally and personally, for several years and still see the potential in every relationship to not only survive but to thrive. I also have experience with biblical and Christian counseling, which is also a passion of mine. However, I do not impose my beliefs on any client and have successfully navigated working with clients of varying world views and spiritual beliefs.